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Wisconsin roundup: Walker has no opinion yet on free computers for freshmen; schools evacuate, river warnings continue

Gov. Scott Walker is not sure yet if he'll support giving free computers or tablets to all high school freshmen in Wisconsin -- and he wants to learn more about it.

State Assembly Republicans are making the free computers part of what they call a "Forward Agenda" for the next two-year session. Speaker Robin Vos says students need Internet access, or else they'll be "behind the curve as they get ready for the workforce of the future."

It would cost up to $55 million to provide machines for an estimated 74,000 freshmen in public, charter and voucher schools -- using the $750-maximum for computers that Walker proposes in a back to school sales tax holiday that Assembly Republicans also favor.

The GOP has a 63-36 majority in the lower house that it expects to keep after the November elections, and Assembly Democratic leader Peter Barca says he's skeptical the GOP will keep any of its promises.

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Employment stagnant in state's large factory sector

Employment is stagnant in the manufacturing sector that Wisconsin relies more heavily upon than other states.

Factories provide one of every six jobs in the state, and a new federal report shows that Wisconsin lost 500 factory jobs in the year ending March 31. That represents one-tenth of 1 percent of all Wisconsin factory workers -- small compared to a 4.6 percent drop in Texas, and 1.1 percent in neighboring Illinois.

Chief Economist Chad Moutray of the National Association of Manufacturers blames a strong foreign exchange rate for U.S. dollars which raises the cost of American made goods in other countries, thus causing exports to drop.

Jim Golembeski, who heads a regional workforce development agency in Green Bay, says the decline does not reflect jobs that remain vacant due to a shortage of willing or qualified workers.

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State native airman dies on hike near Lake Tahoe

MARYSVILLE, Calif.  --  The Air Force is investigating the death of a southern Wisconsin native who died while hiking near the south portion of Lake Tahoe.

Officials at Beale Air Force Base near Marysville, Calif., say Airman Tyler Oimoen -- a native of Mount Horeb -- died in a hiking incident on Monday, but the details were not released. It happened Monday. Oimoen was stationed at Beale for about the last year as a food service apprentice.

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Milwaukee's Sherman Park stays open for now

MILWAUKEE  --  A park close to where violence broke out on Milwaukee's north side last month will stay open past 6 p.m. without a snow fence around it.

On Tuesday, Circuit Judge David Hansher kept a temporary restraining order in place until he can decide by Sept. 29 whether to approve Sheriff David Clarke's last-minute request to have another judge hear the case.

Clarke ordered the park's curfew and snow fence in response to the violence Aug. 14 and 15 that came after a police shooting death nearby.

County Executive Chris Abele says the actions are no longer needed -- and neighborhood residents say they show the unnecessary signs of a crime scene.

Clarke was not at Tuesday's hearing, but his lawyer says he was planning all along to reopen the park after Labor Day -- but Hansher says the sheriff should not have kept that plan to himself.

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Suspect in drug-related murder appears in court

CHIPPEWA FALLS  --  A 21-year-old man makes his first court appearance in the drug-related murder of an Eau Claire man. Matthew Labrec is charged with homicide and illegal firearm possession.

Chippewa County prosecutors say he and 21-year-old Jesse Lloyd were planning to rob Kenneth Patterson of Eau Claire when the victim met them to buy drugs -- and Labrec reportedly told police that Lloyd fired the fatal shot as Labrec's gun wouldn't go off.

He's currently being held at the state's prison in Portage for unrelated charges, and prosecutors said they saw no need to set a bond.

Lloyd has a preliminary hearing scheduled Oct. 14, and Labrec has the same proceeding set for Oct. 26.

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Wisconsin floods: Schools evacuate, river warnings continue

SOUTHWEST WISCONSIN -- There are no classes Thursday at Saint John's Elementary School in Mayville, after rising flood waters evacuated two schools in that city on Wednesday.

Parkview reopens today -- and about 130 We Energies customers were still waiting to get their power back overnight after 3,000 customers were in the dark from 60 mph winds Wednesday evening.

Meanwhile, flood warnings continue in southwest Wisconsin where up to 7 inches of rain fell late Tuesday and early Wednesday.

The Kickapoo River at Readstown, Viola, Gays Mills and Soldiers Grove was over its banks Thursday morning as minor flooding is expected throughout the region, but moderate floods are forecast for Rock Springs where the Baraboo River was expected to rise to almost 4 feet above its banks by Friday night.

A general flood warning continues until 12:30 p.m. for Eastern Richland County where the Pine River is flooded.

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Farm group offers to help neighbors with tainted wells

KEWAUNEE  --  A dairy farming group says it will help Kewaunee County residents whose private wells have been tainted by animal waste and other pollution.

Peninsula Pride Farms announced the unprecedented move Wednesday, in what observers call a first step toward resolving pollution concerns raised in part from a number of large scale dairy operations in Kewaunee County.

The non profit Peninsula Pride says it will cover more than half the cost of water purification systems for wells with animal waste pollution. And it will provide up to three months of bottled water for an estimated two dozen owners of wells testing positive for E.coli.

The effort will be funded by a dues from group members, private donations, and $20,000 in tax dollars from the state Agriculture Department.

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Green Bay mayor reaches plea deal on campaign finance charges

GREEN BAY  --  Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt could avoid jail and probation time as part of an advance plea deal on three charges involving campaign finance law violations.

Special prosecutor Bruce Landgraf of Milwaukee County says Schmitt will plead guilty to the criminal misdemeanors, after a judge is arranged to hear the case.

Schmitt was charged Wednesday with trying to take campaign funds from someone other than the reported contributors, in excess of allowable donating limits, and making false statements on his required state reports.

Schmitt blames mistakes by not recording and verifying donations accurately -- and not knowing about the contribution limits.

The campaign reports were filed in 2014 and 2015. His lawyer says there were no misappropriations, but some Green Bay aldermen want the mayor to resign.

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Fatal motorcycle crash victim identified

WEST BEND  --  A 67-year-old man killed in a Labor Day motorcycle crash has been identified as Ernest Westcott of Grafton.

Washington County sheriff's deputies say his bike went too fast on a hillcrest, lost control on a curve and landed in a ditch. Westcott was ejected and died later at a hospital.

Officials say he was wearing a helmet. The crash occurred Monday afternoon near West Bend on County Trunk M in the town of Trenton.

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Walker unveils sales tax holiday details

GREEN BAY  --  Gov. Scott Walker says his proposed back to school sales tax holiday would apply the first weekend of August in each of the next two years.

Walker says he'll include the tax break in his proposed state budget next February. Majority Assembly Republicans say it's also one of their priorities for the next session.

Walker detailed his plan in Green Bay, during a news conference at Shopko's headquarters. For one weekend a year, the sales tax would be removed for school supplies, computers costing up to $750, and clothes up to $75.

Walker says the Revenue Department expects about $11 million fewer sales tax dollars statewide as a result of the tax holiday, which lawmakers would have to renew after it's applied for two years.

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Governor announces new broadband contract

MADISON  -- A new contract is now in place to increase broadband capacity on the BadgerNet Converged Network.  

Gov. Scott Walker says the state will save $8 million per year with the new deal and have faster, more reliable access to the internet.  He says schools and local governments will save money by utilizing the network, which serves all 72 counties.  

AT&T runs the network, and total capacity will rise to 400 gigabytes by the time upgrades are completed from the current 90 GB bandwidth capacity now.

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Wisconsin job growth continues to lag behind U.S.

WASHINGTON, D.C.  --  Wisconsin continues to lag behind the nation in its private sector job growth.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the Badger State created almost 1.6 percent more jobs during the year ending March 31. That's below the national average of 2.1 percent. Wisconsin ranks 33rd among the 50 states in its pace for creating jobs.

The state added more than 37,000 jobs from March of last year to March of this year. The figures come from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, the most comprehensive job data available because it surveys 96-percent of employers.

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Teen who spiked teacher's drink gets jail time

OCONTO  --  An Oconto County teenager who spiked her teacher's drink at Gillett High School is spending some time in jail.

Eighteen-year-old Hailey Brock was ordered to spend two weeks behind bars during sentencing in Oconto County court. She began serving her sentence Tuesday.

Television station WLUK reports that Brock was also ordered to serve two years of probation, perform 32 hours of community service and maintain full-time employment or schooling.

Brock confessed to putting cleaning solution for a dry-erase board in the drink of Gillett High School staff member Ray Johnson, who was not seriously injured.

Police say student Gavin Gilbertson helped spike Johnson's drink. Gilbertson is scheduled for a jury trial Sept. 27.

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in Febraury 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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